CRACKDOWN ON RUBBISH LOOMS!

ARDS and North Down Council is plotting a November crackdown on rubbish being dumped at Household Recycling Centres in a bid to tackle its two-year recycling crisis. The local authority plans to bring in extra staff to make sure no one is throwing recyclable waste into landfill, while also getting more strict on identity checks and existing rules barring both businesses and people from outside the area using any of Ards and North Down’s nine HRCs. Officials also want to stop recyclable materials being thrown away in household grey bins for general waste, something that’s still an issue despite council publicity campaigns about sorting rubbish correctly. That may involve inspecting grey bins to make sure they don’t contain recyclable waste, using a warning sticker system to tell members of the public that they’re breaking the rules. Full details of the crackdown won’t be revealed until next month, but a senior official has confirmed that the new ‘robust and rigorous’ measures will kick in towards the end of November – and he added that the council will ‘really go at it’ when enforcing strict rules on the public’s use of waste services. Recent figures show that the twoyear collapse in recycling rates may have bottomed out, meaning that while things haven’t got appreciably better, they have at least stopped getting worse. But it’s still the worst performing area in Northern Ireland. By the first three months of this year, Ards and North Down was burying more rubbish than Belfast, even though the city has more than twice the population of the borough. Over the same period, the borough sent half of its rubbish to landfill. That’s the highest amount in Northern Ireland and around double the provincewide average. The council has struggled to get to grips with the crisis since it kicked off in summer 2020, and the problem has racked up massive landfill fees for the local authority. At a meeting of the council’s Environment Committee last week, environment director David Lindsay said that officials are now planning big changes in the way waste services are run. He told last Wednesday night’s meeting that rules on the public’s use of HRCs will be enforced ‘in a much more robust, much more rigorous, and much more consistent fashion’. Detailing those rules, Mr Lindsay said: “We have already established the principle that only residents of the borough should be using our sites; we have already established the principle that only householders should be using the sites to dispose of their own household waste. “We have already established the principle that commercial and industrial waste should not be coming into the sites, and have set up controls on vans, trailers, etc; we already have rules agreed that when you come onto our HRCs you must recycle, you are not allowed to put recyclable material into landfill skips.” Turning to household bin collections, he added: “We already have agreed rules that you are not allowed to put recyclables in the grey bin. “We had a system already commenced, before Covid struck, to systematically have a programme of checking grey bins to see whether or not people were putting recyclables into them when they shouldn’t be, and a sticker system.” The full details of the crackdown that will be presented to the council next month will, stated Mr Lindsay, show how officials ‘will really go at it’ when enforcing ‘all those rules and terms and conditions of using [council waste] services’. That will mean either bringing in new staff or reassigning existing jobs to handle the extra duties, he said, though the cost of doing that will be outweighed by the amount saved on landfill fees. The crackdown will also come with a major publicity blitz designed to get the public obeying the strict rules on HRCs and household bin collections. During last week’s meeting, politicians largely accepted that major changes are needed to tackle the recycling crisis, with SDLP councillor Joe Boyle commenting: “There is something drastically wrong, something seriously wrong, when we are taking more landfill in our borough than Belfast City Council.” Politicians also accepted that the full crackdown plan expected to be detailed at next month’s committee meeting would ask them to make difficult and potentially unpopular decisions – but for Green councillor Lauren Kendall those unpopular decisions would be worth it, as they would mean ratepayers’ tax money stops being spent on hefty landfill fees and fines for missing recycling targets.